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tv   Tavis Smiley  WETA  November 17, 2012 1:00am-1:30am EST

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oscar next year. it opens in wider theaters across the country this weekend. we are glad to have joined us tonight with sally field coming up right now. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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tavis: part two of our conversation with sally field. before we jump into other life and career highlights, let's take a look back at some scenes from her terrific performance as mary todd lincoln in the new film "lincoln". >> we hear -- these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation under god shall have a new birth of freedom, that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth. >> we can't tell our people they can vote yes on abolishing slavery, unless we can tell them you are negotiating a peace. >> it is the amendment or this confederate peace. >> how many hundreds of thousands have died? >> congress must never declared
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equal those who got it declared on a call. >> leave the constitution alone. >> you step out upon the world stage now. the fate of human dignity in our hands. blood has been spilled to our borders. now, no, now. >> abraham lincoln has asked us to work with him to accomplish the death of slavery. >> no one ever has been loved so much by the people. do not waste that power. >> the fight is for the united >> we choose to be born, or are we fitted to the times we are born into? >> i do not know about myself. you maybe. i think i'm going to use the word myth.
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there is a myth or a narrative that we have wrestled with for years about who mary todd lincoln was. clearly she was grief-stricken. but what was the challenge to you to betray her in the way -- portray in the way is what the film called for. >> i had to go in without any preconceived notions. since i had been sort of looking at her for so many years, i had left preconceived ideas -- less preconceived ideas. i read five by arby's on her. was piecing together hergieci psychology of why she behaved the way she did and some of the document if things weie know she behavior certain ways. the task has bent, you take the
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magnificent complicated screenplay and you put all of those pieces together of all of the research i had done, the interior and the exteriors. i gained 25 pounds to try to reach that girth, the roundness that she was. and then you shake it up and you let it go. and you standa in front of the exquisite talent of daniel day lewis. and let her be. i had no preconceived ideas, i had no notion of where she was going. there are scenes of great grief and great anguish and anger. and then levity. and she was imperious. she had a feeling of entitlement. and she was also devoted to her husband.
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and had there not then a mary todd lincoln there would not have been an abraham lincoln. that is simply a fact. she was breathtakingly smart, highly educated, half came from a powerful, political family and the south and found him as a young lawyer. and he was really nothing but a lawyer. and she recognized his brilliance and said, that is the man i will marry. he will be president. she went about to help him do that. tavis: the most important question i will ask, how much fun was a gaining 25 pounds? >> and not as much -- tavis: eat whatever you want. >> i was doing it with a purpose, because i was beginning to do the research and i was already in this very disciplined place. so like a jerk, i went to a nutritionist and i ate the most repulsive, awful things. i did not allow myself to eat chocolate cake and french fries.
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i had these shakes with pro-gain that weight lifters. was revolting. tavis: i am very disappointed. you have a chance to have all this fun, and you are drinking shakes. >> i felt like a goose. tavis: you dropped it. was that easy? >> it was really hard. it took me six months to gain and a year to lose it. i worked really hard. i ultimately had to have knee surgery. it was worth it. tavis: i am glad you said that. i was about to ask -- we see these stories from time to time. i saw a picture of matthew mc connauhy. he walks around with his shirt off. i see actors go through this phase of gaining weight and
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losing weight. there is a question in the back of my mind as to whether or not that is healthy. art is terribly important. but is it worth going through all of that? >> i do not know. in retrospect, i would not have done it any different. i am a woman of a certain age. i thought, i do not want to do it in such a way that i will drop dead and they will be recat. i will not get to do it. that is one of the reasons i went to a nutritionist. i found out it does not matter. if you eat tons and tons of brown rice, you are eating these enormous amount of calories, is still fat. in my heart,log .'d be dead n tavis: how much of wanting to be in a project like this, i don't care if your name is sally field, hwhoever else, is there a gravitational pull to
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even want to be in a project like this when you know, even before it is done, you do not know if it is going to work, but if you know if it does work, it is going to be huge. when steven spielberg is taking on lincoln and daniel day-lewis is going to be lincoln. there are all kinds of signs around a project like this, this is going to beat massive. it is not about winning the academy award. if you are an actor, this is the kind of stuff that you want in your career to be a part of. is there any truth to that? >> there is a truth to it but it is not quite the same as you said. it is to me to have the opportunity and the privilege to do that kind of work with that kind of excellence around you, that it be the screenplay, standing across from the brilliant daniel day-lewis, or tommy lee jones or the cast was
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not to be believed. or that you work with the brilliant, masterful film maker of our times, probably, steven spielberg, at the height of his artistry. and that everyone in front of the camera and behind the camera are just simply as good as it gets. and that is why i would want to be a part of it. i have worked all my life, all of my life, all of my miles in the saddle to add up to be able to be good enough to be in that arena and go toto in it. tavis: you mentioned on the program last night, there was a point in this process where you thought that it might be better to cast someone else in this character of mary todd lincoln. because of all of the baggage
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that you brought. let me ask you how you assess, how you have carry that baggage down to the years. >> um, i don't know. i have a tendency to think of myself as the mutt of the litter. i'm not pure bred. there are some actors who are my contemporaries who i think of as purebreds. i'm not. i'm a street mutt. -- i've -- sometimes tavis: you have two of these statues we stues at home. i know, but everything has been a struggle. nothing has been a glide. it is some hifalutin idea i have, my children say that there is such a thing as a purebred or a glide. probably there is not. there have been a few people who are my age that have been
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working as long as i have who have struggled as much and probably because i came out of situation comedy, television in the 1960's, the shows i came out of for so ridiculous, let's put a name to it. tavis: are you calling "the flying nun"ridiculous? >> i am. then it was a struggle to change and be taken seriously. for some reason, i have been more difficult to cast than somebody else. i cannot really say why is it. but most of the roles are really wanted i had to fight like crazy for it. i have to work -- i had to want ecap.ore than my kne you have to dig so far deep inside yourself, to be so
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vulnerable, to want something so deeply. i have had to do that. tavis: there is a joy in that, yes? there is a joy in that beautiful struggle. >> yes. you are so smart. it is hard to define. joy is the right word. there is something about it that forces you to have to be so totally and completely alive. and in your own space. i have -- i can't duck and cover and be halfway there. i have to be so utterly and totally alive. if i go down in flames, it'll hurt like holy hell. even when you go down in flames, you know you are so utterly here on the planet. really, why are we here except to feel with the experience is to be human? even when that hurts really bad. tavis: that is part of what it
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means to be human. you mentioned in this conversation that you are obviously a woman of a certain age. was there ever a point or points where you thought that this kind of epic opportunity would not come your way, once you cross a certain age/ >> of course, yes. absolutely. i am not offered a lot of or any films. you know, and so, much of my career and certainly more recently i have had to say, why are you in this? what do you want, other than i have had to make a living. this is about, also, how you eat and have a house and take care of my kids all of my life. but then as i got older and would be, why, what are
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struggling for, what do you want? i had to say, what i've learned how to do. what is my work. what thrills me. makes me alive. if it is not in film and in that most prestigious way, it will be where ever i can get it. if it is in television, great. if it is on stage, even better. because i do not -- talk about alive. and so i really look to do that and have done that. or wherever it is. and i have to put my ego or that part of you that you win awards and you have some feeling of entitlement. you were there once, can'at i be there again? all that must go somewhere else. it is in your way. tavis: i was reading about your for our conversation, and i thought -- we do not have to go
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here if you do not want to. i was looking at the kind of work you have done outside of, off the stage, off of the small or big screen. there has been of consistency in your life of working on women's issues. and i have thought about that days ago in advance of this conversation, given the success that a good number of women had in this last political election. elabeth warren wins big in debbie stabenow hold on to her seat. clare mccaskill beats back these crazy comments in missouri. there are other stories i can talk about. >> then there are women i might not have voted for. in nebraska. tavis: preceisey. isely. i lokoed at the kinds of issues you have work done. and all of these issues are linked to politics.
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tell me, give me some sense of why you have chosen those kinds of issues to be the work you do when you are not acting. >> i will try to make it a shorter story but it is a long story. slowly, all of these characters that i have done throughout my life have changed me and awakened me. and certainly "norma rae" began to change me. and marty made me more aware of what the world really was. and i was then, later, invited by save the children to go -- this was for the first beijing women's conference to go to nepal and to go speak at the beijing women's conference. i then took my middle son who was 21 at the time. we did all of that. and it awakened me in a way i had not been awakened before about how women are treated all over the world. and the struggle of women.
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slowly but surely realizing that if women did not come to the table in a real way, statistics are staggering, that the world would always be in turmoil. that if women were allowed a place at the proverbial table, that the environment was better, that their villages and communities were stronger economically, that their children were healthy, that there was literally no down side. everything changed and made a more stable community. and you realize when women are subjugated and treated as fodder of war, and in this country when they are not allowed to be paid equally, there is a real problem in that. and until we can fight and scream and kick and demand a change. and women not be slaughtered. that there were 100 million women missing off the planet.
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this is inequality here that must stop. and i became impassioned with it. and i have worked for people like eve -- who still is a hero. i urge people to go on the web site and see what she is doing for women to stand up and scream and be known that this has to change or vital voices, which is another very important group based in washington which helps empower women to go back into the community and spread it our and teach other women and change the world. tavis: you give me another opportunity to circle back to mary todd lincoln, character you played in this new "lincoln" film from steven spielberg. you have been blessed to play so many important characters who have changed your life. what will you take-- with mary?
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what have you taken from this character? >> i have not left her. mary is so embeded in me. "lincoln" is coming out. it is hard for it to come out. this is a deep, personal experience for me in every way. and mary is here with m. e. i do not know how she has changed me because she is so right here with me. it has been hard for me to talk about her. i know she will change me and i also know she will always be with me. in a very, it sounds creepy -- but it is not. she belonged to me. i belonged to her. i felt that in a feel it now. she has changed me. i do not think she will ever go. tavis: how hard, i think you
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used the word struggle -- maybe i am picking the wrong word. when i was teasing you about "the flying nun," is you had to struggle to be taken seriously. i should never ask a two-part question but i will anyway. one, how hard was it to make the transition to be taken seriously after a character like that? and number two, are you comfortable with the fact -- i am trying to figure this out for myself whether or not you are finally comfortable with the fact that as an actor you have been taken seriously. >> let's see. how did i -- the way i transitioned eventually was that when i was doing "the flying nun," and i was depressed, i was taken to the actors studio by medellin sure would and i began working with lee strasberg. i became an actress studio baby.
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ims it through and through to my core. -- i am method through and through. my work started to develop. i started to understand the craft and play with it and do it and understand it. and eventually, i would say to myself, it is only going to change when i am ready. i did not know how, but i knew i had to be better than i thought i had to be. i had to be much better than that. and eventually, i sort of fought my way in. over everybody's dead body. up indon't know -- i grew a show business family, in a working-class show business family. my stepfather was a stunt man. really a hard life. we would have some things, house one day, and the next day they would take it all away. we would have to find a much
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cheaper place to live. and again and again that what happened. my mother was an actress who was working class. one week she would get a show. she had a part on "bonanza." then she would not work for three or four months. sometimes you did not know, wait a minute. if nobody is working, how are we living? it was not a glamorous life. so i think there is a part of me that will not ever allow myself to feel i have a arrived, because he did that. and every time he did that, they came and took everything away. and i think that many feel, i have arrived and i am entitled, uh-oh. then you got lazy. then something quieted. tavis: is a perfect note to end this conversation because i wanted to ask this question at the beginning of our conversation last night. you opened the door for me to
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ask -- with all these are your mother and father go through and the myriad ways that impacted you economically, socially, culturally, why did you yet make the choice to be in this business? or was it not really a choice? >> it was never a choice. i was always that. i was always, always a that. maybe it was my deep and profound love for my mother who loved it so and who had studied with charles loughton. and that drive to reach something magical in what art, what any of this is. that she would carry around checkoff plays -- chekhov plays. and was working on the things like that for no reason except she loved it. and shakespeare. and always memorizing poetry and carrying the around and reading these things out loud. some way, early on it was my love for my mother that began to
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have this world where we were in together. so i always was this, always. in junior high school, high school. it is who i am. and it is -- it is like, do not be an actor? that would be like cutting off both my legs and even an arm. it would be a huge part of me. tavis: i'm glad that you have been this and you are this, and i am glad that they chose to for "lincoln". >> thank you. tavis: the project is called "lincoln" starring daniel day- lewis and sally field stars at mary todd lincoln. i think the whole country is waiting on this. i am honored to have you on this program. i am delighted in these two nights of conversation. >> you are so wonderful. tavis: that is our show for tonight. until next time, keep the fa
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ith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join me next time for a -- for a look the latest negotiations between the white house and the gop and the fight to avoid the fiscal cliff. >> there is a saying that dr. king had that said there is always the right time to do the right thing. i try to live my life every day by doing the right thing. we know that we are only halfway to completely eliminate hunger and we have work to do. walmart committed $2 billion to fighting hunger in the u.s. as we work together, we can stamp hunger out. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you.
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>> be more. pbs. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. pbs. tavis: hi, i'm tavis smiley. join
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